No longer science fiction, farm robots are already here—and they have created two possible extremes for the future of agriculture and its impacts on the environment, argues agricultural economist Thomas Daum in a Science & Society article published July 13 in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution. One is a utopia, where fleets of small, intelligent robots farm in harmony with nature to produce diverse, organic crops. The other is a dystopia in which large, tractor-like robots subdue the landscape through heavy machinery and artificial chemicals. He describes the utopian scenario as a mosaic of rich, green fields, streams, and wild flora and fauna, where fleets of small robots fueled by sustainable energy flit around the fields, their whirrs intermixed with insect chirps and birdsong. “It’s like a Garden of Eden,” says Daum, a research fellow at the University of Hohenheim in Germany studying agricultural development strategies. “Small robots could help conserve biodiversity and combat climate change in ways that were not possible before.”
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